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The Clinical Nurse Leader Role

There are some exciting new advancements appearing in the field of nursing, a discipline already well known for its reliance on intelligence, compassion and skill. Current licensed practical nurses and registered nurses, as well as nursing assistants or students who simply dream of entering the healthcare industry, should consider working up to their master’s degree in nursing and pursuing the rewarding role of the Clinical Nurse Leader® (CNL).

Taking on Clinical Leadership

Image via Flickr by COD Newsroom

One of the most important aspects of a CNL’s role involves leadership. Learning to become a leader is an integral part of the nursing education required to be eligible for CNL certification. Different from a staff nurse, a CNL has a hand in everything. The scope of duties involves drafting healthcare plans for patients, leading processes and teams, utilizing data to design and implement evidence-based practice, and anticipating problems with colleagues or patient care. Although the leadership responsibilities of a CNL are many, the AACN maintains the CNL role is unique in that it is “not one of administration or management.” Rather, CNLs work toward bettering the care of the entire population of patients in their unit, making recommendations as they see fit based off of data they’ve collected and analyzed.

A CNL strengthens the connection between patients and nurses and between nurses and doctors. The individual speaks to patients about symptoms, moods, pain levels and even emotional feelings, then carries that information to the doctors and other nurses on staff. Through collaboration, every team member comes up with a care plan, although the CNL ultimately chooses a course of action and is responsible for following through with it. Thus, it’s vital a CNL has the communication skills and leadership qualities necessary to facilitate dialogue and decision-making.

Working Hand-in-Hand with Colleagues

Because the CNL is the bridge between numerous individuals and areas, it is important to build strong relationships with colleagues. From the newest certified nursing assistant, to the most tenured doctor, the CNL must maintain clear communication with all stakeholders. A large part of the position involves listening to everyone's concerns and ideas because these will play a role in determining a course of action in many instances. The CNL will work closely with the entire medical team, ensuring each patient receives the highest level of care. CNLs keep up on the latest technology and treatments and assess the risks and advantages with the patient’s nurses and doctors. A CNL will take in and analyze feedback from the team and initiate a quality care plan aimed for success. They also assume accountability for the evaluation and improvement of point-of-care outcomes.

Providing Better Care for Patients

By attending an online nursing school and acquiring a master’s, the potential CNL will quickly learn the importance of creating patient care plans. A huge part of the job involves managing patient care and coming up with the best plan of action, whether the patient suffers from cancer, heart disease or a broken limb.

Nurses studying to become a CNL will learn how to research new surgery techniques, new equipment and the finer details of maintaining a patient’s comfort. Students learn how to collaborate not just with doctors and nurses, but also with pharmacists, the patient’s family, physical therapists and social workers.

Becoming a Motivator and Mentor

In addition to keeping up on healthcare informatics, new innovations in surgeries and care techniques, and communicating between staff members, CNLs are essentially mentors and motivators for their team. Constant communication is of the utmost importance, as is the ability to listen to problems and ideas with an open mind. These professionals are also responsible for inspiring the next group of CNLs.

Discover your inner leader and pursue an online Master of Science in Nursing at Queens University of Charlotte to become an even better advocate for your patients and a driver of improvement within your care unit.

Interested in learning more about how CNLs drive improvement for their patients? Read about the impact of the Clinical Nurse Leader in the maternity unit.